Gen-Z is not a monolith – no group ever is!

Published on 07/11/2022

Gen Z both captivates and challenges us. When I say “us”, I mean “boomer” and “millennial” marketers alike, trying to make sense of an age group with an estimated $100B purchasing power globally.

To set the scene, Gen Zers are people born between 1997 and 2010. Like any generation, they are experiencing a drastically different world than those who came before them: ubiquity of social media, lack of financial security, mental health crises, tension between individuality and identity politics, etc. As a result, they seem to have a different approach to work, brands and social media than previous generations.

For instance, they expect companies they buy from to take a stand on social justice issues, include them in a co-creation process for communications and product development and be transparent on their ongoings while shopping at ultra fast fashion brands on a regular basis. Gen Z faced many challenges when they first entered the workforce - the COVID-19 outbreak, rising costs of living and climate change. They are therefore more likely to report that the pay they receive for their work does not allow them to have a good quality of life and that they are worried they won’t be able to hit key economic milestones in their lifetime (homeownership for example). Lastly, they are vastly known to be the most “connected” generation: they use TikTok as a search engine to learn how to write their first CV and to choose their next moisturiser. They are also known for their deceptively witty cynicism on social media and have popularised “cancel culture”.

« They expect companies they buy from to take a stand on social justice issues, include them in a co-creation process for communications and product development and be transparent on their ongoings. »

That being said, are those characteristics enough to describe Gen Z as a monolith or have we been painting them with too broad a brush? Is a 15 year-old community activist in Rio de Janeiro going to have the same problems as a 20-something New Yorker trying to climb the corporate ladder by day and running a stan account by night ? Of course not, both targets are worth paying attention to and taking the time to understand. Communities are an amazing and powerful way to understand the particularities and modus operandis of any given group of individuals a brand would like to approach. In order for brands to truly understand the Gen Z customers they want to address, it’s imperative that they pay attention to the weak signals and keep abreast of the behaviours and trends in a fragmented, ever-changing environment thanks to social media listening.

One of the key aspects to successfully reach and convert this generation is to talk to them through their interests and have a deep understanding of the social media grammar and journey behind each digital subculture. The imagery, the phrasing, and the key opinion leaders might change from one community to another, from High Fashion Twitter to FinTok, but the process for marketers should be the same: using insights to drive a finer understanding of the specific Gen Z community they’d like to target to cater the strategy around their pain points, conversation drivers and expectations. If all these boxes are ticked, there is a good chance that you will be able to craft a strategy where your product / service enters the zeitgeist, especially with the mediation of content creators.

It seems like a hefty investment in time, money and energy. Truthfully, it is. But now is a critical time to seduce this audience as they are the customers of tomorrow.

In some ways, millennials are the swan song of brand loyalty as we know it. The generation after them tend to shop based on values and beliefs, they approach their choice process with a hint of scepticism and expect good value for money purchase after purchase. Indeed, Gen Zers tend to be more brand enthusiasts than brand loyalists meaning that brands will have to work harder to maintain a thriving, long-lasting relationship with them, mixing digital and experiential marketing. In other words, they are still keen to appreciate a great brand experience and reward it with a purchase but it might not always be the same brand. A good start to ensure a brand has all its chances in this regard might just be to not see them as a monolith. Otherwise, as a Gen Z-er might say, it’s giving less profitability.

Footnotes :
- 1' Cancel culture : Cancel culture can be defined as boycotting a brand or person after they have done or said something considered objectionable.

- 2' Stan Account : Stan Twitter is a community of Twitter users that post opinions related to celebrities, music, TV shows, movies, and social media. The community has been noted for its particular shared terminology derived from African American Vernacular English.

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